Four young women who had all spent a year doing volunteer work in inner-city Chicago neighborhoods and living with
Catholic Sisters founded Sophia Community in 1993. Inspired by the Sisters life, they created their own form of community life. We started off in an apartment building on Dorchester Ave near the University of Chicago. By the second year, membership had grown to six and we rented the basement apartment as well.
During these early years, we established our routines:
- twice-weekly community nights when we ate together, discussed business, had fun, and prayed
- twice-yearly weekend retreats out of town to bond and develop our goals and structures
- parties and celebrations
- new member move-in over the summer or early Fall
- shared chores
Diversity crept in organically. For the first 5-6 years, new members came through the same volunteer program, but a few men married in or joined, then non-Catholics, and then strangers. Eventually, children we born in the house and older people joined, increasing the age range and life experiences.
We moved to nearby Quaker House in 2000 when the 57th Street Meeting of Friends were seeking a new use for their house.
We found that we had similar values of social justice, spirituality, simple living, and hospitality, and both parties have benefited from the arrangement. With the move to Quaker House, we took on responsibility to managing a small guest business and maintaining a large and lovely house in a prime Hyde Park Location.
In the first decade of this century, many members were students, which meant that they only stayed for 1-2 years before completing their studies and moving on. We shifted our focus towards recruiting families, but found that they did not stay any longer. At our peak in 2015, we had 14 members, which included three families each with two children. At the same time, we developed a core of long-term members that provided stability even when 1-2 members or families moves out each year.
From 2009 to 2013, we hosted the Quaker Volunteer Service before a national program developed. The 57th Street Meeting of friends sponsored young Quakers just our of college for a year’s community service, with our community providing them a taste of communal living. Even though they were considerably younger than the rest of the community (aside from the kids), they fitted in well.
For 20 years, we have been a drop site for Angelic Organics CSA. The farm drops 40-50 boxes of produce here on Saturday mornings, and shareholders from the South Side pick them up. For several years, we have also acted as a drop site for another CSA which delivers on Wednesdays. In some years, a parent-led playschool operates out of our basement and back yard.